Rungvisai-Estrada: An Outstanding Fight Marred by Another Awful Scorecard

This past weekend boxing fans had the pleasure of watching another exciting card that didn’t cost them any money aside from the cost of their cable bill. Maybe with the emergence of MMA and now the slight decline in its rating, those who hold the power in boxing finally figured out that if you make good fights and don’t rip the public off, they’ll watch and take an interest in the fighters. Then after seeing two fighters march on and end up on a collision course they’ll watch Anthony Joshua fight Deontay Wilder on PPV.

The new model rolled out on HBO this past weekend when Srisaket Sor Rungvisai 45-4-1 (40) defended his WBC super flyweight title against Juan Francisco Estrada 36-3 (25). This was a highly anticipated clash between the two fighters perceived to be #1 and 1A at 115. At this time last year they were unknown, but both Sor Rungvisai and Estrada fought on high profile main events that aired on HBO and were afforded the needed exposure.

Sor Rungvisai, a contender for “Fighter of the Year” in 2017, garnered a ton of exposure with two monumental upsets over Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. In their first meeting, Sor Rungvisai won a controversial decision, handing Gonzalez, who had won all 46 of his pro bouts, his first defeat. Then six months later he erased all doubt by knocking out Gonzalez in a memorable fashion with one punch in the fourth round. On the undercard, Estrada outpointed a high profile foe in Carlos Cuadras, who some felt had defeated Gonzalez when they met in September of 2016. When Estrada beat Cuadras, a bout between him and Sor Rungvisai became a natural; it was a tough to pick a winner. On my Boxing Channel preview I said I couldn’t go against Sor Rungvisai, but that he was in a lot tougher than he was in his matchup with Gonzalez because of Estrada’s style of not being an all-out attacker.

The bout started with Sor Rungvisai coming out strong looking to land his left cross from his southpaw stance while banging Estrada to the body. As expected, Sor Rungvisai showed he was the physically stronger fighter and looked to impose himself on Estrada. Through the first six rounds it looked as if Sor Rungvisai had everything going his way, but starting in the seventh Estrada came on and bounced some big shots off of Sor Rungvisai’s head. Estrada was fighting with more urgency and smartly mixed in boxing from range along with attacking in spurts and waves.

Sor Rungvisai made a stand in the tenth round and with two to go, the math didn’t work for Estrada, but he closed the show strong and edged the last two rounds to make the fight really close. I scored it 115-114 for Sor Rungvisai or 6-5-1 in rounds. Depending on how you scored my swing round, that made it 115-113 Sor Rungvisai or 114-114. I’m okay with either, feeling that Estrada came on too late but that a draw was certainly plausible.

When it was over, everyone thought it was an outstanding bout and would love to see it again, and then the decision was read and Sor Rungvisai was declared the winner via a majority decision by the scores 115-113,  117-111 and 114-114. The crowd of 7,827, mostly Mexican fans there to support Estrada, weren’t happy and some booed, but most observers I’ve spoken with or read on social media, while feeling that Sor Rungvisai pulled it out, saw it real close and felt a draw or a point win for either would’ve been a fair call.

The only bitterness regarding the decision resonates from Judge Steve Morrow who tabulated the fight 117-111 or 9-3 in rounds in favor of Sor Rungvisai, which is deplorable. I don’t care if you’re Sor Rungvisai’s mother or wife, there’s no way any competent observer can come to the decision that Sor Rungvisai had the better of it in nine of the 12 rounds. That’s a terrible card and they are becoming almost the norm in high profile fights…. and it stinks!

Last week welterweights Devon Alexander and Victor Ortiz met in a crossroads clash that was declared a draw. Two of the judges saw it 114-114 with the third seeing it 115-113 for Ortiz. The fact that it was declared a draw alone is an outrage. In the week that has passed since Alexander-Ortiz, I haven’t corresponded with anyone nor have I seen it written where anyone saw Ortiz as the winner. I saw the fight 116-112 or 8-4 Alexander. Maybe 115-113 or 7-5 is just as accurate, but there is no way Victor Ortiz should’ve been declared the winner on anyone’s card.

That’s two weekends in a row that supposedly competent judges submitted scores that were completely out of line with the masses in a high profile bout. In regards to Alexander, he was cheated out of a victory that he earned. The scorecard that had Sor Rungvisai winning 117-111 almost makes him look weaker, as if his performance needed to be bolstered so that the perception of him as the top dog at 115 wasn’t dinged with the bout being closely contested. But that wasn’t necessary because in the eyes of many he legitimately turned back the stern challenge of the next best fighter in the division and that alone is enough to promote his next fight.

When boxing judges submit cards that are obviously out of line, fans are left with one of two conclusions: 1) the judges are inept, or 2) they’re corrupt or influenced by things other than what occurs in the ring. Bad scoring hurts both the winner and the loser in boxing. Why can’t they let the cards fall where they may because boxing fans aren’t fools? Oh, you can sell them junk and they’ll pay for fights in which they know there’s likely to be only one outcome, but that’s due to their love for the sport and hunger to see marquee fighters.

Boxing has really been on an upswing. Airing competitive bouts on network and cable TV where the outcome isn’t a forgone conclusion is its best medicine. Fights like Sor Rungvisai-Estrada and the WBC heavyweight title bout coming up this weekend between Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz will sustain the momentum. However, fans are really annoyed with the inexplicable scores that judges like Don Griffin and Steve Morrow have tabulated. Boxing fans are probably more passionate and intuitive than fans of other sports. No, not all of them, but certainly enough to see when a particular judge didn’t watch the same fight they did or was influenced by something that didn’t take place in the ring.

Based on the scoring by the two aforementioned judges, I have to assume there are more who really don’t know what they’re seeing and were given a license based on who they know instead of what they know. And based on the 117-111 card favoring Srisaket Sor Rungvisai over Juan Francisco Estrada, it’s possible that an incompetent judge who favors aggressive fighters might have just blown the call.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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